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Job fair looks to better employ disabled population

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Prospecting employees had the chance to take part in a new job fair for the area, and organizers behind it hope the idea will grow to help more people.

Tangram and the Autism Society of Indiana held a reverse job fair Wednesday afternoon at the Rapp Family Conference Center inside Eskenzai Hospital. All the job seekers experience some kind of disability.

"We have people who are neurodiverse, which includes being on the Autism spectrum, have dyslexia, have tourettes," said Tangram's business development manager Angela Vandersteen. "We have someone who uses a wheelchair and has an obvious physical disability. I know we have a couple who have visual impairments, so a wide range of various disabilities."

Tangram works as a consultant to help employers better include workers with disabilities, consider them for jobs and help train them as their employees.

Many times, someone with a disability may have the same qualifications for a job as most candidates but won't land the job they've spent time working for.

"We’ve always played up the low-entry level jobs for people with disabilities and not talked about disabilities on the same aspect as we do everybody else in the population," said Vandersteen.

The reverse job fair was a chance to give 25 people with a disability a level playing field. Instead of the job seeker approaching employers at a booth, the job seeker occupied the booth and hiring personnel made the approach.

"Being able to have the employers come up to us and talk to us, introduce themselves, it lowers our anxiety, making it a much more productive interview," said Todd Root, the director of development at the Autism Society of Indiana. "That’s all an interview is, is a social-ability test, and for somebody on the spectrum, it’s a test we often fail."

Vandersteen said some reports estimate unemployment to be as high as 70 percent for the disabled American population. She added the CDC has said one out of every four Americans has a disability.

The job fair included training for employers to better understand what their hiring practices should include to make sure they welcome disabled applicants. There were at least two dozen employers on hand for the event.

Leaders hope the event can expand next year to include more employers and a wider range of job seekers.

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